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I’m reading a great book about one of the first converts and apostles to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Parley P Pratt.
For those interested in a pretty good glimpse into the early church and the challenges and miracles that took place, this is a very good read.
One of the miracles that he describes is when the Latter-day Saints had been driven out of their homes in Missouri and into Illinois. They were destitute and left in the cold along the Mississippi River on a swampy land with no shelter. People were getting very sick.
Here is an excerpt of one of the miracles that took place during that time:
Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, wit his feet poultice; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was preparing his clothes for his burial.
Brother Joseph (the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith) took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK”! It was a voice which could be heard from house to house…like the roaring of a lion or heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him and…he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds…Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.” (pg. 355)
This story is a fairly popular story that is told and repeated about Joseph Smith. The part that I was not familiar with that Parley Pratt writes about is this:
Brother Jospeh, while in the Spirit, rebuked the elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the pwer to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power”
Joseph Smith’s quote caused me to reflect on the power of healing within the Church of Jesus Christ today.
For those of you not familiar with how Elders are instructed to heal within the Church, I’ll share some information on the procedure, purpose and process.
In the Bible, there is a scripture that discusses how people who are sick should call on the elders and they will lay hands and anoint the people so they can be healed.
Today, we are instructed to do the same thing. We have olive oil that has been consecrated for healing the sick. We then put a little oil on the head of the person being blessed and then as the Holy Spirit shares thoughts and impressions in our minds, we pray and bless the people who are sick.
I have witnessed miracles on occasion through blessings such as these. For example, my little sister had a bad accident when she was 3 and my father gave her a blessing of healing and she started breathing again and was healed.
However, I hear quite frequently about how today we’ve been blessed with modern medicine and technology and that we don’t need to rely on God as much for healings. Some people say that God caused the medicine and technology to take place so we shouldn’t bother God with a miracle unless we have to.
This makes me wonder if we are like the elders Joseph Smith talks about and rebukes and if we lack faith and rely too heavily on man instead of God. As the Book of Mormon states, when faith is lacking, God can not do miracles. Perhaps we don’t see as many miracles such as the one described because we lack faith.
What are your thoughts?
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and have written articles and books about the subject. In my free time, I try and help people who are struggling with similar issues and provide them guidance and hope.
With this in mind, I was very interested in a recent article that shares the science behind happiness. Within the article, he shares thoughts from Kate Bratskeir, a researcher on happiness, that I thought would be good to highlight for any of us. Some of these are similar to what I outline in both my book, Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication and a similar article I wrote a few years ago. Below are 10 of Kate’s findings on how to become a happier person:
Ten things that supremely happy people do
1. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.
2. Happy people try to be happy. When happy people don’t feel happy, they cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.
3. Happy people spend money more on others than they spend on themselves. Givers experience what scientists call the “helper’s high.”
4. Happy people have deep in-person conversations. Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.
5. Happy people use laughter as a medicine. A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters. A study showed that children on average laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.
6. Happy people use the power of music. Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.
7. Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet. Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression.
8. Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside. Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.
9. Happy people get enough sleep. When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgment.
10. Happy people are spiritual.
Those of you who have read my book and articles know of the ways that have helped me with exercise, relaxation, spirituality, etc. and all I can say to this list is Amen!
I worked out this morning and my back is a bit sore, so when I saw #6 and massage therapy I got excited for the massage I’m going to get this Saturday!
One thing that is on this list that I haven’t outlined before is spending more on others than on ones’ self. I like that one! I would take it a step further and say spending both money and time with others is important whether that’s with your kids, a friend, spouse, etc.
What are your thoughts about this list and what have you found that helps make you a happier person?
One of the scriptures that was a cross reference to this one is found in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 6:17, which is:
As I reflected on both of these scriptures, it reminded me of a story that my Grandfather told me.
Shortly after the depression, he and his father and brother had purchased a ranch close to Sun Valley, Idaho. They lived in Central Utah and had been raised there, but the opportunity and growth in that area looked promising. My grandfather had a very small family at the time and was recently married. His father, my great-grandfather (we called him Grandpa Dough-head because he would tease us and call us little dough-heads) was very excited about the opportunity to partner with his sons and start a new adventure.
(This is a picture of my great-grandfather, Don Lyman Anderson when young)
Shortly before leaving and selling their things in Utah, my great-grandpa was called to be a bishop. For those who do not know what this means, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) members from the congregations are called to voluntarily serve as pastors of the congregations. One scripture that my great-grandfather lived by is the one found in Matthew 6:33 which is:
While his personal desire was to go to the ranch with his sons, my great-grandfather loved God and His kingdom more than the things of the world. He told his sons to go ahead without him as he felt called to serve as the bishop of the congregation, which he faithfully did for a number of years.
Just a few years after they bought the ranch, my grandfather and great-uncle were forced to sell the ranch and go their separate ways because the ranch wasn’t producing as they had hoped and couldn’t sustain two families.
Although the ranch proved to not be successful, I think it is a great example that my great-grandpa chose to follow God regardless of the outcome. I’m confident that he is now in a better world now as he passed away when I was 4 years old.
(This is “Grandpa Dough-head” as I remember him when I was a little boy)
As I reflect on this story and the scriptures mentioned, I wonder how well I’m doing with not putting things of the world before the kingdom of God. I hope that I can continue the legacy that my grandpa left and put God first and pass it down to my kids.
Do you have any personal stories that have inspired you about those who have put the kingdom of God first?
From the get-go, there has been intense opposition to the Book of Mormon. If you are an outsider looking into Christianity, you may wonder where the most opposition has come from since the whole Book is saturated with references to Jesus Christ, his divinity and mission. Interestingly enough, the opposition has come from Christians of various denominations from the day Joseph Smith started telling people about it.
I’m reading the History of Joseph Smith by his mother and I read a story I had never heard before about a group of Quakers coming to her house and ransacking the place “in the name of God” so they could find the Book of Mormon and destroy it. That was just the beginning of persectution and ultimately the Latter-day Saints were driven from their homes and many were killed.
Although persecution towards the Mormons today isn’t as physically intense, it still exists verbally.
One of the things that baffles my mind is when I hear preachers, and/or hear reports of preachers bashing Mormons and other faiths over the pulpit. That is another form of abuse the Mormons deal with and don’t even know about it. It has come to the point that when I say I’m a Mormon to a Christian I just expect to hear their tone of voice change and their countenance change and the more religious of a Christian they are, the less tolerant they are in many cases (from my experience). I’ve had them tell me I’m on the pathway to Hell, that I don’t believe in their Jesus and the list goes on.
I used to be offended and hurt when Christians treated me like this, but I’ve grown to try and see things for what they are. First, Jesus has commanded us to love those who despise and reject us and as His follower, I try to do this, which I’m not always the best at. Next, they’ve had years of people telling them stuff about Mormons that may or may not be true and are conditioned to be afraid to engage in conversation. Some things are 1/2 true and other things are outright lies. Next, in many cases, they may have never met a Mormon before, so fear is involved. Finally, I wonder if deep down they may be afraid that the Book of Mormon is actually true and that will damage their faith.
On the other hand, I have spoken with Christians who feel that Mormons are rude to them. They say Mormons are arrogant and flaunt that they are the “one true religion in Christianity” and don’t allow their kids to associate with their children.
Clearly, there are significant misconceptions on both sides of the aisle and I’ve often wondered if there is a way to bridge the gap. I’m sure that Jesus looks down and isn’t pleased with contention between Christian faiths.
With these thoughts and experiences in mind, I reached out to my friend, Cal, who has frequented Graceforgrace for a few years now. He’s been an awesome contributor to the blog and has helped countless people come closer to God through his prayers and experiences that he shares.
He is a Christian and attends regularly. He hears the stuff that people say over the pulpit about Mormons and the awesome thing is that he not only believes in the Book of Mormon, but he shares his testimony about it to other Christians.
Below is an interview that I had with him about his testimony about the Book of Mormon and his ministry:
Interview with Cal about his Testimony of the Book of Mormon
- What is your Christian background?
I became a Christian on June 6, 1983, after reading a prayer that included Romans 10:9, which says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Upon repenting and deciding to follow Jesus, a peace came into my heart and an assurance that I was now an accepted member of his family with my sins forgiven on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself in my place.
I then began attending a church of the charismatic variety. They stress praise and worship, meaning singing praise songs to the Father or to Jesus, usually many songs in a row, which attracts the presence of the Spirit. Charismatics also encourage the manifestations of the gift of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, such as physical healing, miracles, prophecy, and speaking in tongues, all brought about by faith.
- What led you to looking into Mormons?
Curiosity, desire for adventure, and being contacted by Mormon missionaries (elders).
- How did you come to the conclusion Mormons are Christian?
It was a long process. The big ah-ah moment came when visiting the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in South Royalton, Vermont. I saw something on the wall indicating that the Mormon Church believes Jesus is the Son of God. I remembered 1 John 4:15: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” I believe it was shortly after that that I dared to begin reading the Book of Mormon—I say “dared” because, like many non-Mormon Christians, I was afraid of being deceived. However, I discovered agreement with the Bible, and after my suspicions died down, I began to realize that it was lifting my faith and strengthening my spirit in same way the Bible does.
- Do you believe in the Book of Mormon and other LDS scripture?
The Book of Mormon appears to me to be about 99% accurate. Not only that, but also, like the Bible, I find an amazing balance—important truths are treated as such, less important truths are treated as such, and the whole gospel, including God’s wrath, are given attention.
The Doctrine & Covenants is loaded with prophecies that obviously came from the Lord, but some toward the end, in my view, did not.
- If you do believe then why aren’t you Mormon?
A major reason I’m not Mormon is that I feel that becoming one would be inconsistent with what God has called me to do, namely, encouraging unity among all Christians. The LDS believes it alone makes up the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, which contributes to the break between non-Mormon Christians and Mormon Christians. Also, I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a restorer of the church, though I like him, respect the larger part of his ministry and gifts, and am glad that many are finding salvation in Christ through Joseph Smith’s message.
6. Tell us about your ministry to help Christians see Mormons are Christians.
At this point my ministry consists mainly of a small website directed toward evangelicals. A key page is http://www.evangelicalsandmormonsforjesus.com/fast-facts.htm , which has Bible verses of doctrines essential for entering God’s kingdom juxtaposed with LDS doctine to show that the LDS fulfills God’s requirements for a Christian organization.
- How do you know God has called you to this mission?
The urging of the Holy Spirit and the joy I receive from spreading the message that the LDS is Christian. I have also received personal prophetic words from prophetically gifted ministers that confirmed that I’m on God’s track for me. (I’m glad God sometimes has a chance to bypass the unrenewed minds of his people—if these ministers had known in their minds what they were encouraging me to do, they probably would not have said what they did!)
- What push-back have you received from fellow Christians as you’ve defended Mormons?
For starters, very few non-Mormons have encouraged me. When they learn what I’m doing, they usually try to correct me or simply look down on me as someone seriously mistaken and deceived. My wife is with me whole-heartedly and my Lord encourages me: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12)!
- What success have you had with your ministry?
Many people are spending some time on my website. Besides that, it’s hard to tell. I’ve received a small number of encouraging letters from evangelicals. Ironically, more Mormons contact me than non-Mormons. Apparently, after enduring verbal abuse for so long, Mormons are refreshed by my defense of them and appreciate it.
Moving beyond what I’m trying to do to God’s big picture, I am excited by the many little signs I see that barriers between us are coming down. For example, just moments ago, I noticed an article listed on google titled, “Evangelical visits to BYU signal a new evangelical-Mormon détente”
10. What are the commonalities and differences between your belief and what Mormons believe?
Commonalities: Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords; he suffered for our sins so we could be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit (what Mormons call the gift of the Holy Ghost); on the third day he rose from death and is now seated next to the Father, mediating for us; Jesus, under the direction of the Father, created the universe, rules the universe, and will judge all men. God is calling all to repentance, faith in Jesus, and baptism. Doing these will lead to blessings; not doing them will lead to misfortune. God is calling us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves with the enablement of his grace. Joseph Smith was prophetically gifted.
Here are key areas where I differ: Joseph Smith taught some error, mainly, if not totally, during the latter part of his life. The LDS is one among many Christian denominations but not the full extent of the kingdom of God on earth. The church of Christ has needed, and still needs, restructuring, reformation, more revelation, and revitalization; but not a restoration of priesthood authority since that authority never totally left the earth.
I believe our commonalities should bond us together for the sake of pleasing God and winning the lost (see Jesus’ prayer in John 17). Our differences can be worked out in time as we worship together, fellowship with each other, and pray together. I’m not claiming it’s going to be easy. In fact, “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
Thanks to GraceforGrace for helping to bridge the gap between us.